Nawar (people)

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Not to be confused with Newar people.
Regions with significant populations
 Syria 100,000–250,000
Domari, Arabic, Aramaic, Kurdish, Berber, Turkish, Hebrew
Predominantly Islam
Related ethnic groups
Dom people, Roma people, Kawliya

Nawar is an Arabic term for several sedentary communities used primarily in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.[1] The term is regarded derogatory, used by the Arabs for several diverse ethnic groups.[1] They have historically been called "Gypsies", though as a whole they only have economic activities and lifestyle in connection with the Romani, possibly having distant linguistical relationship; only the Dom people (the largest of the groups) have a clear connection with the Roma.[1] The Dom people are especially known as Nawar.[2]

This numerically small, widely dispersed people have migrated to the region from South Asia, particularly from India, in Byzantine times. As in other countries, they tend to keep apart from the rest of the population, which regards them as dishonorable yet clever. The Nawar have traditionally provided musical entertainment at weddings and celebrations. The participation of Nawar women in such activities is lucrative, yet at the same time it reinforces the group's low status. Nawar also appear at festivals to work their trade as fortune-tellers, sorcerers, and animal trainers. In Syria today, one may still encounter Nawar encampments in rural areas.


Nawar is an Arabic term for several sedentary communities used primarily in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.[1] It is also found in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Sudan.[citation needed] The word "Nawar" is also used as a blanket term applied indifferently to non‑Dom population groups sharing a nomadic lifestyle and similar social status, such as nomadic Kurds and Turkmen population groups, though it is never applied to nomadic Arab Bedouin groups.[citation needed]


The Nawar in Syria number 100,000 to 250,000 people according to estimations.[3] The vast majority is sedentary.[3] The sub-groups of the Nawar include Dom (Sunni), Turkman (Sunni), Turkman (Shia), Abtal (Shia), Alban (Sunni), Akrad (Sunni), and Kaoli (Sunni).[4] The Dom and Turkman are the largest groups.[3]


The Nawar in Israel are also known as tso'anim (wanderers in Hebrew).[2] A small community in Jerusalem lives in Bab Huta neighborhood, in the Old City of Jerusalem.[5][6][7][8]



Main article: Domari language

The Dom language (Domari) in the Middle East is known as Nawari.[2] Domari shows Turkic, Kurdish and Arabic influence.[2]

See also[edit]

  • Ghorbati, community in Iran and Afghanistan


  1. ^ a b c d Berland & Rao 2004, p. 71.
  2. ^ a b c d Law 2014, pp. 138–139.
  3. ^ a b c Berland & Rao 2004, p. 73.
  4. ^ Berland & Rao 2004, p. 74.
  5. ^ Selig, Abe. Jerusalem’s Herod’s Gate receives face-lift. 06/29/2010. Jerusalem Post
  6. ^ A People Apart: The Romani community seeks recognition. By Eetta Prince-Gibson. Dom Research Center. 2001
  7. ^ Danny Rubinstein. People / Steve Sabella: Blurring the lines. Haaretz. 2005
  8. ^ Joseph B. Glass and Rassem Khamaisi. Report on the Socio-Economic Conditions in the Old City of Jerusalem. Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto. p.4